The founder of a prominent Westport real estate firm died Wednesday at his Palm Beach, Fla. home.
Wade Shavell, 51, who sold homes to several celebrities, including Keith Richards, Robert Redford and Martha Stewart, and numerous business executives around the Gold Coast, slipped and struck his head, causing a brain hemorrhage, his family said Thursday in a news release.
"Wade had an uncanny ability to connect with all types of people and he always had a story to put people at ease," said David Fite, his current business partner. "His work life and personal life overlapped, as clients always became friends. I will greatly miss his friendship."
Shavell's prodigious career as an agent was briefly derailed in 2006 when he pleaded guilty to federal tax evasion charges after conspiring with his mother to hide money he made from the sale of his firm. After his conviction, he returned to success, co-founding a firm in Florida with Fite. His firm recently opened an office in Westport.
Shavell started his real estate career at 19 and founded his own agency, Riverside/Shavell in Westport when he was 25.
After 11 years running his firm, Shavell sold the agency to NRT in 1999. In 2003, he moved to Palm Beach to run NRT's Corcoran Group.
In 2006, Shavell left the Corcoran Group following his guilty plea, and was sentenced in 2007 to three months in prison, followed by three years of probation.
Federal authorities in Connecticut said Shavell and his mother, Patricia, worked together in the tax evasion scheme.
Patricia Shavell paid the owner of a Hollywood, Fla. thrift shop to create three fraudulent appraisals for the 1999 and 2000 tax years -- right after her son gained a significant amount of money for the sale of his agency -- for personal property Wade Shavell claimed to have donated to the store.
Prosecutors said Wade Shavell claimed $322,610 in fraudulent, non-cash charitable donations on his 1999 U.S. tax return and $301,785 in fraudulent donations the next year. The tax loss to the government was $181,461.
Shavell, who faced up to five years in prison, paid the government $429,371 as part of a plea deal. His mother pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to defraud the IRS and was sentenced to probation, house arrest and community service.
After his run-in with the law, Shavell returned to the real estate business with Fite in 2008.
With his business partner, Shavell quickly grew the business, which has sold over $1 billion in real estate since it opened.
"Wade loved his life's work, cherished his firm family and adored Palm Beach, his home. Wade was a part of the fabric that is Palm Beach and Fite Shavell & Associates is a wonderful part of his legacy," the company said in a release. "While Wade will be missed immensely, his death a shock to us all, the Fite Shavell Family will live on in the continued success of the firm and our associates in no small part thanks to Wade's indelible influence, commitment and heart."
Steve Simpson, an employee of Shavell, told the Palm Beach Daily News that Shavell handelled his conviction with grace, and took responsibility to protect his mother. Simpson said the way Shavell handled the situation was one of the reasons he joined Fite Shavell in 2008.
A funeral service for Shavell will be held at 10:00 a.m. Monday at the Temple Emanu-El of Palm Beach, 190 North County Road. The interment will follow at Eternal Light Memorial Gardens, Boynton Beach, Fla.